WATCH: President Morsi Backtracks and Voids the Decree that Gave him Expanded Powers

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has annulled a decree he issued last month granting him sweeping emergency powers, in a push to defuse political tensions and deadly violence gripping the country.

Pictured: An Egyptian protester takes a picture of his children on top of an Egyptian army tank outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 8, 2012.
But a spokesman, speaking late Saturday in Cairo, said a referendum on a controversial draft constitution will still go forward as planned December 15.

There has been no formal opposition response to the decree annulment, and it was not immediately clear what impact the announcement will have on opposition groups who mounted protests in the capital.

The two issues -- the decree and the referendum -- are at the heart of anti-Morsi demonstrations that have rocked the country for much of the past two weeks.  An opposition umbrella of liberals, secularists and supporters of the former regime claim the draft constitution was pushed through by President Morsi's Islamist backers, without opposition participation.  They have demanded the referendum be canceled and a new draft formulated with opposition input.

Opposition leaders also accuse the president of using the November 22 decree to create what they say is strong-arm rule reminiscent of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

The latest developments were announced after day-long meetings between key Islamist backers of the president and delegates from opposition groups.

The November 22 decree and the draft constitution days later sparked violent protests in Cairo and elsewhere in the country.  The president said earlier this week that at least seven people had been killed and hundreds of others injured in the demonstrations.   

Egypt's military said Saturday it supports dialogue to resolve political differences.
 
On Friday, authorities postponed the start of early voting on the referendum by Egyptians abroad. Some analysts said the move could signal the president may be willing to negotiate with the opposition.

SOURCE: Voice of America

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